Considering Flywheel for hosting your WordPress website? Looking for an objective review to help make your decision? Let's talk about the pros and cons of Flywheel so you can make an informed decision.
Flywheel is a popular hosting option for WordPress powered by the lightning fast Google Cloud Hosting platform. They only host WordPress sites, so if you aren't using WordPress then you can definitely look elsewhere for hosting.
Here's my "at a glance" review and then I'll get into the details...
Note: I've been using WordPress since 2005 and have used dozens of different web hosts so I have plenty to compare to. And unlike other reviewers, I'm actually a Flywheel client and not just rating and reviewing from the outside. This site you're on now is hosted by Flywheel.
Will My Site Be Fast & Secure on Flywheel?
Site speed is critically important for creating a good user experience, ranking on Google, and generating sales. Hubspot did a study revealing that just a 1 second delay causes a 7% decrease in conversion rates.
Well guess what? Beyond basic site speed optimization, your web host is the #1 determining factor for site speed and performance.
One of the main reasons I chose Flywheel for hosting my site is site speed. I've tested my site across various hosts and Flywheel consistently outperforms the competition.
Site speed, performance, and security are good reasons to pay more for web hosting. Using a cheap web host is where you're going to run into trouble with slow sites, sites that go down with traffic spikes, hacked sites, etc.
Those are massively expensive problems that you don't want to have (speaking from personal experience). You get what you pay for and Flywheel delivers.
Is the Flywheel Hosting Dashboard Easy to Navigate & Use?
The worst thing about most web hosts is the dashboard experience. You login and it's just a mess of buttons, links, and confusing workflows.
Flywheel has gotten rid of the classic web host dashboard in favor of a modern, clean design that puts the most important things front and center...
Your stats, backups, billing, domains, and a link to your WordPress Admin are all immediately available via organized tabs and if you're not sure where where something is or how to do something, live chat support is one click away.
Need to add your web developer as a collaborator so they can easily login (without using your credentials) and manage the site? That's front and center as well.
I've honestly never seen a better dashboard user experience from a web host. I'd give 6 stars on this if I could.
Can I Get a Free SSL Certificate for My Website With Flywheel?
An SSL certificate encrypts sensitive data on your website and it's how you get the green padlock in the browser bar. Google now requires this on all websites in order to rank properly.
It used to be a royal pain in the ass to install and manage SSL certificates. They were also very expensive – hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.
Flywheel, like most reputable web hosts, offers one-click SSL protection via Let's Encrypt and they have a "Force SSL" option which makes sure your site serves all content securely...
This Force SSL option is important because without it, insecure content on your site will triggers warnings and errors in people's browsers that your site is not secure. This can have a massively negative effect on your site traffic and conversions.
Once again, Flywheel has you taken care of with a simple toggle switch.
How Easy is it to Migrate My Existing Website to Flywheel?
Setting up hosting for a brand new website is one thing, but what if you're already with a web host and you're thinking about switching?
With most web hosts, you have two options: migrate the site yourself (potentially treacherous) or pay them a migration fee to do it for you.
With Flywheel, you simply choose your package and then submit a migration request. Flywheel's team will migrate your site for you. Even if you have multiple sites, there appears to be no limit to Flywheel's free migration offer.
Does Flywheel Offer Staging Sites?
A staging site is a separate site where you can manage edits and additions to your site without affecting the live version of the website. When your changes and additions are ready for prime time, you simply click a button and push these changes to your live site.
Flywheel's packages include a staging site for all of your installs. You can turn it on by flipping a simple toggle switch...
Once the staging site option is on, you can click a button to automatically copy your current (live) website over to the staging site.
Once you've made whatever edits and changes you want to make, you can push those changes to the live site with the click of a button.
I rated this feature four stars instead of five because it's not clear how this feature behaves with SSL. The staging site is not protected by an SSL certificate so it's not clear whether or not changes and additions you make on the staging site will push to the live site as secured items.
Surely Flywheel has worked this out, but it was murky enough that I have stayed away from this feature. I would need to have a longer conversation with their support team to double check a bunch of things in order to use this feature and right now I haven't had a major reason (like a complete redesign) to use the feature.
Does Flywheel Have a CDN Option to Serve My Content Faster?
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a global network of servers that disperse your content so that it can be served faster to people all over the world.
CDN's work best for storing and serving your image and coding files as those are responsible for the majority of the page load time. By hosting these files on a CDN, your site speed will increase significantly, especially for people who don't live in the region of the host server.
Typically, a CDN is very difficult and sometimes expensive to setup properly, but once again, Flywheel allows you to integrate this feature with a flip of a switch.
Simple right, so why only four stars?
The reason I give this feature four stars is because when you enable it, all the images on your site are uploaded to Flywheel's CDN (as designed). The problem with that is that the images are no longer associated with your domain, which means you lose all the Google Images traffic (for those of you paying attention to SEO).
To be clear, this is how almost all automatic CDN integrations work across the hosts that provide them, so this isn't just an issue with Flywheel.
The bottom line is that if you don't care about Google Images search traffic, then feel free to use Flywheel's CDN. If Google Images search traffic is important to you and you want to use a CDN, you'll need to setup one of the complicated and expensive CDN options that allow you to use custom domains (such as "cdn1.yourdomain.com").
If Flywheel can find a way to fix this and make this a true, domain-specific CDN, I'll bump them to five stars.
Does Flywheel Automatically Keep My Website Backed Up?
Automatic site backups are critically important for any serious website. Beyond the backups, though, is the effectiveness of the actual restore process.
Let's say your site gets hacked or there's some sort of critical error. You go into Dropbox or wherever your last back up is only to realize that the backup file is corrupted or the backup process won't properly restore the site from the backup. You're in a world of misery.
This happens time and time again to people who think they're doing the backup process correctly. Usually it's because people are using shoddy WordPress plugins to run their backups, but I've seen it happen on shoddy hosts as well.
Flywheel's backup system is automatic and it's rock solid. Every single night Flywheel backups my entire site and creates a log file of the backup. I'm given the option to download the backup to store it separate if I want and with one click – at any time – I can restore my site from the latest backup...
I've actually had to use this feature many times for various reasons and it's never failed me.
The backup system also let's you create a manual backup at any time (such as before updating your theme or plugins) and you can leave comments on each backup file that describe why you initiated the backup or the change you're about to make to your site to help you sort which backups apply to which changes.
It's very easy to use and works without fail. Five stars.
How Good is Flywheel's Customer Support?
Flywheel refers to themselves as a "managed host," which means they'll do more things for you than standard hosts will. It also typically means they pride themselves on the quality of their customer support.
To date, I've used the Flywheel live chat support system multiple times and I'm always impressed by the quality of their support staff. Even with technical issues they're very knowledgeable and fast.
Their chat and support software is very robust, too, giving you multiple options to get help...
You can live chat 24/7, see your existing open tickets, search for answers in their knowledge-base, or open an official support ticket.
I rate the Flywheel support as 4.5 stars for two reasons. First, they don't offer phone support – that would really put them over the top. Second, sometimes when their live chat is busy, they won't help you directly with technical issues. Instead, they'll turn the chat into an official ticket and you'll have to wait longer for it to get resolved.
Still, the quality of support and the relative speed is among the best, so I still rate them highly.
Can I Host Client Sites on Flywheel? Can I White Label My Client Sites?
Man, I honestly don't know if there's a better website hosting option for agencies than Flywheel.
Not only can you manage client sites directly on their agencies packages, you can white label the entire experience so clients never see the Flywheel branding.
On top of that, you can set your own custom hosting prices for your clients and even create your own hosting packages. Want to create a hosting package where your client pays for hosting + 5 hours of development per month? Flywheel lets you do that and they also manage all the billing and pass the money on to you.
Even if you don't use the agency hosting packages – maybe you're a freelancer – Flywheel has as super unique feature where you can develop a site on their "demo site" feature. When the site is done, you can "transfer it" to the client with the click of a button. The client signs up for Flywheel, gets access to their completed site on their own hosting plan, and you get a referral commission.
Like I said, I've never seen such a robust and easy system for agencies and freelancers. It's impressive.
How Much Does Flywheel Web Hosting Cost & Are Their Packages Flexible?
Flywheel certainly isn't the cheapest web host around, but that's not how I determine the rating I give them. My rating is the cost relative to the quality and other similar options available.
For a single site, paying monthly, Flywheel is going to cost you $25/mo. For comparison, MediaTemple (another well respected hosting company) charges $20 for their managed WordPress hosting, but allows two sites.
It would seem like Flywheel is much more expensive in comparison, but MediaTemple's system is one of those systems that's difficult to use and understand and lacks many of the features Flywheel has. For an extra $5/mo, Flywheel is well worth it.
If you have more than one site, the next plan up jumps you to $110/mo, which allows for up to 10 sites. That's a drop in the bucket for what you get with Flywheel if you're hosting 10 legit sites.
I'm rating them 4.5 stars instead of 5 on packages and pricing because I think their entry-level $25/mo package should include hosting for up to 3 sites.
Either way, I still think Flywheel is well worth the cost.
Final Thoughts on Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting
As you can see, Flywheel checks all the boxes. They're not perfect (none of the options are), but they're about as close as you can get. If you want top notch WordPress hosting without breaking the bank, I'd highly recommend getting setup with Flywheel.